Mr Dolan drawing on a Shoreditch Street with his dog George
Mr Dolan drawing on a Shoreditch Street. Photograph: Rob Weir

So, you think Shoreditch has started losing its edge, having been drowned out over the past couple of years by middle class trendies driving the eccentric and eclectic mix of art, fashion and location lifestyle into corporate regeneration?

Well, not necessarily. For an example of the older Shoreditch look no further than the area’s most notorious street artist.

Former jailbird John Dolan’s debut exhibition took place last month at Howard Griffin Gallery in Shoreditch.

Dolan, 42, has led what he describes as a “rough life” – he has spent time on the streets and has been in and out of HMP Pentonville over the years.

After he rediscovered a long neglected gift as an artist he began creating a series of finely drawn, detailed monochrome cityscapes that he then posted to famous street artists around the world who added their own splashes of colour to the drawings.

Before the doors to Dolan’s exhibition opened to a mass of fellow artists and collaborators, local film directors and industry peers, I chatted to John about what landed him in jail and his ambitions for the future.

When did you first start getting recognised?

About two months after sitting down in the street I got published in Shoreditch Unbound, which was around September 2012.

How did you end up in prison?

I used to suffer from depression, years ago. I was looking after my granddad for about seven years and I started to break into sandwich shops, bars, and offices. I knew the places that kept money in them at weekends, so I’d steal cash so I could go on shopping sprees in the West End. Bit of retail therapy to cheer myself up, that was it, basically.

What are your future ambitions?

To have a show in New York.

Do you think living on the street has shaped you in a positive way?

Any hardship in life makes you a better person and make you respect yourself.

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